Friday, 4 Dec 2020

S'pore's Unesco bid: What comes next after experts recommend hawker culture be added to heritage list

SINGAPORE – Initially planned to take place in Paris, this year’s Unesco intangible cultural heritage meeting will instead be held online from Dec 14 to 19 in view of the pandemic.

Over the six days, all 42 submissions this year, including Singapore’s nomination of its hawker culture, will be deliberated over and the results announced.

The Straits Times understands that celebratory events could be planned if Singapore’s nomination is ultimately successful, although the coronavirus situation means plans cannot yet be confirmed.

The expert panel report released on Monday (Nov 16) is an integral part of the process, with history indicating that those given the nod by the expert panel are likely to be approved by the intergovernmental committee (IGC) making the final decision.

The National Environment Agency (NEA), National Heritage Board (NHB) and Federation of Merchants’ Associations, which made the bid, said in a statement on Tuesday that Singapore now “stands a good chance”, although the December decision could still go wrong for Singapore.

There is one other plausible scenario: The committee may still decide to seek additional information for Singapore’s nomination, triggering a process where Singapore will have to review and edit its application for re-submission in later cycles.

What is unlikely to happen is that the entire application is rejected, although NEA, NHB and the Federation of Merchants’ Associations reiterated that “the final decision lies with the IGC”.

Singapore submitted the nomination documents to Unesco in March last year, although it announced its intention to nominate hawker culture as early as August 2018.

This was after it held focus group discussions with over 140 participants between April and July 2018 to discuss possible nominations for inscription on the Unesco list.

“Hawker culture was consistently highlighted as an intangible cultural heritage that best represents Singapore’s multicultural heritage, with hawker centres viewed as important community spaces,” the agencies said.

“The successful nomination of an element from Singapore will allow us to profile and share the rich and multicultural aspects of our heritage with the international community.”

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